Drunk driving has remained a prevalent problem within the United States for years. There are thousands of people arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) on any given day in America, and it is a sad truth that these drivers often cause serious accidents that can claim the lives of innocent people. It is important for people to know just how widespread America’s DUI problem is, but it is also imperative that they know how to protect themselves from drivers who take other people’s lives in their hands when they drink and drive.
How Bad is the DUI Problem?
The organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has done an immense amount of lobbying in an effort to protect people from drunk drivers on the country’s roadways. Some of this lobbying led to a .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) national standard when it comes to a person driving while under the influence. Anyone caught with a BAC over this level can immediately be arrested and charged with a DUI. This has done wonders in lowering the incidence of drunken driving fatalities, but the issue is still a bigger problem than most people know.
Statistics show that there were 1.41 million arrests for driving under the influence in 2010 alone. Simple math can show that this means there are arrests constantly being made across the country. Penalties can be severe for drunk drivers, but that doesn’t seem to dissuade all drivers who are arrested for the crime. It turns out that one out of every three DUI arrests in America occur to people who have previously been convicted of the crime. It seems coincidental that one out of three accidents in America is also alcohol related.
The saddest statistics, however, are obviously related to the human toll that drunk driving takes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that a person dies every forty-eight minutes in America due to intoxicated driving. Eleven thousand people died due to these accidents in 2009 alone. These are eleven thousand people who had families, friends and promising lives that were brought to an abrupt end due to the negligence of another person. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize just how serious the drunk driving epidemic in America is until it affects someone that they love.
Spotting Drunk Drivers
It is a sad fact that people will often drive by intoxicated drivers without ever even knowing it. Those who do this and make it home are the lucky ones. There are times, however, when it is possible for a person to spot a drunk driver on the road and react accordingly. There are several signs to look for that could point to the fact that another commuter is driving under the influence.
- Erratic braking
- Drifting or straddling along lanes
- Headlights on ‘bright’ or cut off
- Making excessively wide or sharp turns
- Nearly striking objects or other vehicles
- Driving at excessively high or low speeds
- Inappropriate stops (ie. at green lights)
It is often important to notice if a car has their interior lights on as well. Drunk drivers will often turn these lights on to find something in their car but then forget to turn them off. Any of these actions could be a sign of a negligent driver, but they could also point towards an intoxicated driver. In either case, it is important to respond accordingly.
Protecting Oneself from Drunken Drivers
Spotting a drunk driver on the road is only half of the battle; it is crucial to take proactive measures to avoid becoming a statistic due to their negligence. There are several steps that a driver can take to steer clear of any possible accidents caused by inebriated driving.
- Maintain Distance
It is important to keep a safe distance behind a suspected intoxicated driver. Never attempt to pass them.
- Ditch them
There are often times when drunk drivers are behind a person. An inebriated driver will often try to use the taillights of another driver as a focal point. This is dangerous, so safely pull into a parking lot or side street to allow the driver to pass.
- Always wear Seatbelt
This is a rule that should be followed regardless, but when a drunk driver is involved, this tenet becomes all the more important.
- Intersection Safety
Take time going through intersections. Drunk drivers may blow right through these. Also, maintain distance from suspected inebriates at intersections since they tend to make sharp or wide turns.
- Avoid Shoulder
It may seem like a good idea to pull onto the shoulder to allow a drunk driver to pass, but this could be hazardous. Drunk drivers may think a person is pulling into a right hand lane that doesn’t exist and follow the driver, and this can lead to detrimental results.
- Avoid Late Night Driving
Most drunk driving accidents occur between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Stay off the roads if at all possible during these hours.
- Call the Police
Reporting the drunk driver is extremely important. Even if a person is able to keep a safe distance, they could very well save another person’s life. Never try to stop or apprehend a drunk driver.
- Stay Alert
A driver who engages in distracting behaviors such as texting or eating while driving will be less likely to notice a drunk driver. Always stay alert.
All of these tips can ensure that a person stays safe while there are inebriated drivers on the road. Watching for warning signs and reacting correctly is important all of the time, but it is especially vital to practice these methods during certain holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.
Avoiding becoming a Statistic
It’s sad that over ten thousand people die from alcohol related crashes every year and the only thing that stands in their wake is a broken familial/social group and a statistic. Far too many people decide to put others in harm’s way just to have a ‘good time’, so strict drunk driving laws are meant to protect the general public. Police cannot, however, stop every drunken driving tragedy from occurring. It is important that people take proactive measures to protect themselves as well. Until drunken driving is no longer a problem in America, following these steps will be a person’s main weapon in preventing their own possible tragedies.